A new joint agreement between the Teton Regional Land Trust and a local family will preserve a scenic area of Teton Valley.
The preserved area is an 80-acre farm located along state Highway 31 between Victor and Swan Valley. For more than 100 years it’s been owned by five generations of the Kearsley family. Now, a conservation easement will help keep that land in the Kearsleys’ hands, as well as ensure an area beloved for its scenery is preserved.
“We appreciate working with TRLT on this project. Funds received through the conservation easement will allow us to keep the property in the family and keep the agricultural usage. There have been five generations of family members who have operated the farm. We look forward to having many more,” David Kearsley said in a news release.
The Teton Regional Land Trust is a nonprofit whose mission is “to conserve working farms and ranches, fish and wildlife habitat, and scenic open spaces in eastern Idaho for this and future generations.”
The conservation easements the trust puts in place are “legal agreements that a landowner voluntarily negotiates with a qualified land trust or government program. The conservation agreement establishes the landowner’s commitment to limit development of their land to conserve the property’s natural values,” according to the Idaho Coalition of Land Trusts’ website. It will financially help the landowner keep the property while “permanently limit(ing) the amount and type of future development.”
The farm is just the latest conservation easement in the area. The farm is surrounded by other private owners who also have entered into conservation easements. A total of 12,340 acres of Teton County are currently conserved property overseen by the Teton Regional Land Trust.
“Well-managed family farms and ranches play a critical role in protecting and conserving clean water, healthy streams, and a thriving wild fishery in the Teton River Watershed. Friends of the Teton River is thrilled to have been able to help bring funding support to this project,” said Amy Verbeten, executive director of Friends of the Teton River, in the release.
The trust said that these easements help ensure important wetland and river habitats are protected to maintain the health of the area’s native plants, fish and wildlife. The farm is home to species such as the greater sandhill crane, long-billed curlew, and Swainson’s hawk. The Kearsley property contains two streams that join up with the Teton River. Protecting such connecting streams preserves the health of the river’s fish and water quality.
Letting these areas be overdeveloped can harm “wildlife populations, nutrient cycling, water quality, erosion control, and groundwater discharge,” according to the trust.